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Viewpoint - February 2020

Hire Attitude!

By Bob Gershberg, CEO/Managing Partner, Wray Executive Search

The etymology of the word attitude is French, from Italian attitudine, literally, aptitude. Having morphed over the years, attitude is currently defined by Webster’s as follows:

  1. a position assumed for a specific purpose <a threatening attitude>

  2. a: a mental position with regard to a fact or state <a helpful attitude>    b: a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state

  3. a. a negative or hostile state of mind   b: a cool, cocky, defiant, or arrogant manner

Define it as you may, one thing is for sure, attitude cannot be taught. We can modify behavior but not teach attitude. For decades, we restaurant operators were fond of hiring the “champagne” personality, albeit the bubbly got a bit flat during tighter talent pool periods.

Skills and competencies can be developed, but only those team members with the right attitude will thrive. Moreover, passion and commitment often trump education and experience in the service sectors. While compiling the success factors required for a position, it is crucial to focus on the soft skills as well as the hard.

We are prone to excitement when a resume shows successful tenures with the classic brands and our hearts surely flutter when we see the Stanford MBA. Nevertheless, one need only view Southwest Airlines and its tremendously successful human resource model to appreciate the hire for attitude philosophy. Fine balance in the hunt for the best human capital, from initial candidate sourcing through hire, is required to create the team player who will ultimately reach the Victor’s Cup.

When hiring for a new position, all employers want to recruit the most talented and skilled candidates possible – preferably with a great attitude too. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find potential hires that “have it all.” All too frequently, these individuals are passive candidates who aren’t actively seeking a move.

Unfortunately, we are faced with an ever-decreasing talent pool where the right combination of attitude, culture fit, and skills are difficult to find in one person. In the final decision-making process, which one is the most important?

When talent and skills are in scarce supply, we advise our clients to recruit for attitude and train for skill.

Skills and talent are undoubtedly closely related, but as the saying goes “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” While talented employees may possess the ability to learn new skills effortlessly, it doesn’t follow that they will always make the effort. Individuals possessing less natural talent with the willingness to work hard can also acquire outstanding skills through application.

Attitude can encompass a range of attributes depending on a company’s culture. This spans from personality, work ethic, ambition, commitment, to their general outlook on life. Candidates who possess innate talent who do not apply it will not progress or perform to the best of their ability without the right attitude. On the other hand, a candidate with a great attitude will be more inclined to dedicate themselves to learn new skills. In this case, hard work becomes as important as talent. While the divide between the terms is blurred, a positive attitude is clear for all to see. Talent and skills can be taught to those who are ready to listen and apply themselves.

Next time you have a vacancy, consider whether your job profile echoes the positive attitude you’re looking for. Be more creative in describing the types of candidates you wish to attract so your company stands out from the crowd.

The entrepreneurial arena is rich with success stories of those who won the battle with attitude and perseverance. Colonel Sanders, at the age of 65, was turned down 1009 times before he sold his first piece of “finger lickin’ good” chicken. Ray Kroc was a bit of a job-hopper, when at 52 and in ill health he mortgaged his house to the hilt one more time to roll out McDonald’s. Mark Cuban failed at a variety of jobs. He failed as a carpenter, as a cook, as a waiter (he couldn't open a bottle of wine). He says of his failures, "I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how many times you failed. You only have to be right once.”

A little “attitude” goes a long way in this business… Hire it!

All the best,

Bob Gershberg |CEO|Managing Partner|

(888) 875-9993 ext 102

Finding tomorrow’s leaders today!

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